Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Highroller

(Peter McCubbin, 1984)
If you can cut through the usual Emmeritus chintz, this familiar tale of an immature shlub bilking his own bank is pretty watchable. As usual, its relative success relates to character and theme rather than style: we see enough of Jeff Holec's daily routine to establish him as a character, while the genuinely painful yacht party intrusion toward the beginning sets up a pervasive class-consciousness. While the sound editing is notably bad, the camera placement is more considered than usual; there's even a few reasonably elegant dolly moves. Sure, gambling shots can get almost as tiring as driving shots; and at the climax they ask us to believe that Holec's escort girlfriend could safely remove and run off with his diamond-packed shoe when security has already shot him for smuggling and has him surrounded. As the heist plot climaxes it looks like the film will just nudge into the upper tier of this company's output, tighter and smarter than usual while remaining typically dull and ugly and missing something at its center. However, nothing - and I mean nothing - can prepare you for the big twist ending, which comes out of absolutely nowhere, undermines everything the film had going for it up to that point, and suddenly transforms the whole into some kind of camp masterpiece. I nearly fell out of my chair; the sheer dunderheaded audacity of the thing is hugely entertaining and takes the whole enterprise to a new, unexplored level of glorious trashiness. It works better if you don't see it coming, so please try to forget you read this review!

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